resume writing hints

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Resumes: the good, the bad and the ugly

After many years as an executive-level Sales Recruiter, I got to the point where I could glance at a resume and just from the formatting and which words caught my eye, I could tell you how much experience the candidate had, approximately how old they were, how successful they were and if I would be able to place them. From these quick glances, I would divide the resumes into two piles; ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The ‘good ones’ were all read thoroughly, and the ‘bad ones’…well, they often got misplaced. Never underestimate the power of your resume; it is the only visibility you’re going to get when you are looking for a job. Period. It must shine, or you will not be given your chance to shine. That’s just the way the game is played. I can’t critique your resume for you, but I can give you some pointers that will help you get your resume noticed, the rest is up to you!

Good resume:

  • Name and contact information clearly displayed at top of page in a font that’s a couple points larger than the body of the resume.
  • A quick ‘Summary of Experience” blurb consisting of 3 or 4 sentences summing up your expertise. Use action verbs and focus on broad accomplishments.
  • Use a chronological format. This is the standard. The only exception is if you are fresh out of school. Then and only then is a functional resume is acceptable.
  • Should be tailored to the industry you are applying to; most people have 2 or 3 versions of their resume- all truthful, but each omitting or downplaying certain irrelevant information and accentuating critical information based upon what industries they are applying to.
  • Make sure it looks ‘clean’. Print out your resume and look at it from several feet away; does it look like one page-long paragraph? Is it too busy? Do you have too much italics, underlines and boldfaced print going on? The page itself should look clean, well organized and not too busy.
  • The preferred order on a resume is the following;
    • Summary of experience
    • Professional experience
    • Education
    • Associations, licenses & certificates
    • Technical knowledge (only if you’re in a technical industry and need to note the various applications/languages/machinery you have experience with. Do not list that you are ‘MS Office proficient’, that is a given expectation.)
    • Interests (again, only include this if you a)need to flesh out the page, or b) your interests could possibly be useful on the job. For example, ‘extensive world-wide travel’ or ‘coach high school golf club;.
    • Use plain white or cream heavy stock paper. Avoid textured or patterned paper

Bad resume:

  • Don’t leave chunks of time unaccounted for in your chronology.
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate. Ever. Especially with education, dates of employment or inflated titles.
  • Don’t allow a single typo, spelling error or any poor grammar in your resume. After you’ve run spell check and grammar check, give your resume to someone else to read. See if they catch anything else that needs correcting.
  • Don’t make it too ‘duty’ oriented- it can’t just be a job description, it needs to explain what you accomplished and how you did it.
  • Poor formatting- this is the kiss of death. Do not be snazzy and artistic in your resume layout- it comes across as flakey and immature.
  • Don’t leave out clear employer information- it looks like you’re making stuff up.
  • Don’t write your resume in first or third person. There should be no pronouns in it.
  • Don’t write long, dense paragraphs. Use bullet points to illustrate specific quantifiable accomplishments.
  • Lack of personal contact information- try to list at least 2 contact phone numbers, a fax number if you have one, and always an e-mail address.
  • Unprofessional e-mail addresses. If I were looking at a resume that had “ultimate_stud@aol.com” as the contact e-mail address, I wouldn’t read any further. Create an e-mail account that will be used only for professional purposes.
  • Resumes send in a .zip file, or a .pdf. keep it simple. Use web page or MSWord for your resumes.
  • Please don’t use cutesy fonts, or smiley-faces for bullets…you get the picture.